The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Homily: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Readings: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7; Ps 147; 1Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39
A day in the life of Jesus – this is what we see in today’s brief Gospel passage. Here at the beginning of his Gospel, Mark offers a glimpse into Jesus’ ministry throughout Galilee. Indeed, I suspect Mark had a purpose here: to let us experience the urgency surrounding Jesus’ public ministry; that from the very start Our Lord was driven by the Spirit to teach and to heal as He preached the Good News to all He encountered.

Jesus had just called the first of His Apostles to Him: two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John. He had called and they hadn’t hesitated. They dropped everything to follow Jesus. Together they entered Capernaum. It was the Sabbath, so the day began in the synagogue.

“…He entered the synagogue and taught” [Mk 1:21], Mark tells us.

The synagogue was a place for prayer and for teaching. Jews spent serious time on the Sabbath reading and commenting on Scripture, so you can be sure Jesus’ teaching wasn’t presented in little, ten-minute homilies.

Mark goes on to say, “The people were astounded at His teaching” [Mk 1:22].

They were astounded because never before had they encountered someone like Jesus. He was different. Unlike the scribes, “He taught them as one having authority” [Mk 1:22]. To punctuate this authority, to prove its divine source, He cured a man possessed by a demon, a demon who openly proclaimed Jesus’ identity: “the Holy One of God” [Mk 1:24].

And so Jesus’ fame spread…

Leaving the synagogue, he and His four companions go to Simon Peter’s home, probably for the day’s main meal. But as soon as He arrives, He’s told that Peter’s mother-in-law is ill with a fever. This telling is in itself a form of prayer.

We’ve seen this prayer before. At Cana Mary simply said, “They have no wine” [Jn 2:3] – no request, just a statement of fact, just a telling. And Jesus responds and does so miraculously. Here in Capernaum Peter need only tell the Lord that his mother-in-law is ill, and Jesus heals her quietly with just a touch. The effect is instantaneous.

Has a miracle taken place? Certainly. It all happened because Jesus is there. That’s the one precondition for every miracle: God’s presence. But the miracle seems almost incidental to the reality of the new relationship between Jesus and the woman He has healed. We come to understand this when Jesus comes near to us; for when He approaches us, something good must happen. When Jesus draws near, the gift of faith deepens, conversion begins, vocations are defined, miracles happen.

All these things and more will follow when, in the presence of Jesus, we allow Him to take us by the hand and lift us up. Instead of simply telling God of our sorrows, our joys, our problems, how often does our prayer consist of telling God how He should do things? How often do we try to drag God to our way of thinking, to do what we want? In truth, though, we need only come to Our Lord with our problem and let Him deal with it.

What does this grateful woman do? Jesus has reached out to her, so she lets Him take her hand and help her up. She then waits on Him and the others. She thanks the Lord by serving the Lord.  This, too, is a prayer.

Brothers and sisters, God's healing power restores us not only to health but to active service and the care of others. God has given each of us a service ministry and this is what it’s all about. It’s a prayer, a form of thanksgiving to God for enabling us to serve Him by serving others. But first we must be healed.

You know you’re in need of healing, don’t you? We all are. But have you allowed Jesus Christ to heal you? Have you come to Him, thrown your sins down before Him in the sacrament of Reconciliation and asked for healing?

In the midst of our short lives, our limited, less than transformed lives, Jesus approaches each of us. He calls us by name. He grasps our hand, heals us, and frees us with a touch. And then He helps us up, lifting us up to the freedom He wants for each of us, energizing us so we can respond to His call, so we too can serve.

What about the Apostles? Do you think they knew what He was calling them to do? Probably not. They were likely too overcome by the wonder of it all. Imagine having been called by Jesus, by this man who does the miraculous, called to be His companions, His special friends. They don’t yet know that soon enough they will be doing what He is doing; and soon enough they will experience the cost of discipleship, they will experience the Cross.

Paul, of course, knew this when, in our 2nd reading, he told the Christians of Corinth, “I preach the gospel…and woe to me if I do not preach it!" [1 Cor 9:16] Yes, we’re all called to evangelize, and woe to us if we do not. We are called to share the Good News with the world, even if our little corner of the world might be small indeed.

“His fame spread” [Mk 1:28], Mark tells us. Jesus had become an instant celebrity in Galilee. The sick, the possessed, the confused, the curious – all of these and more ether came to Jesus or were brought to Him by others. Many, led by the Spirit, came in faith, begging Jesus to heal.

“The whole town was gathered at the door” [Mk 1:33].

Does Mark exaggerate? I don’t think so. Everyone came to Him. And why not? Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you want to see Him for yourself, this man who did such remarkable things. Mark sums it all up briefly:

“He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him” [Mk 1:34].
Interesting, isn’t it? The evil one recognizes Jesus for who He is, but so many others haven’t a clue. What about us? Do we know Him…well enough to take our troubles to Him in expectant faith?

Jesus wants to heal.

He wants to help us with all our troubles.

He wants to free us from every form of bondage.

Again, we need only ask, ask that God’s will, the will of the Father, be done in our lives. We need only ask just as the people of Capernaum had asked. No doubt they asked far into the night.

It had been a long day for Our Lord; and yet an exhausted Jesus rose early and off by Himself, to a lonely place, to pray. Did you notice how Jesus’ time of prayer – His time with the Father – energized Him? It gave Him the strength to continue His mission of bringing the Good News to God’s People. Through prayer Jesus brought healing and comfort to thousands.

How about you and me? Is our prayer like the prayer of Jesus? What do we pray for? Do we pray for strength in carrying out the mission God has given us, in carrying out the Father’s will in our lives?

Jesus walked this earth. He knows our hardships. He knows the sorrows and joys that fill our lives. He knows our sufferings because He suffered Himself. Yes, He became human to conquer death; but he also came to bring hope – not only to the people He encountered 2,000 years ago, but to all of us…today and every day.

“I came,” Jesus proclaimed, “so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” [Jn 10:10].

Life! Life here and eternal life. Today, as we actually partake in God’s Divine Life, as we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, as we experience this miraculous Communion with God Himself, let us remember that we too are called.

Have you responded to His call?

How is He inviting you to come closer to Him?

Can you, with childlike abandon, grasp His hand and let Him lift you up?

Will you join Him on His mission to bring God’s love, to share the Good News, with the world?

For this is our calling.

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